Turkish F-16s shoot down Russian jet near Syrian border

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Putin Says Downing of Jet ‘Stab in Back’

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin has described Turkey’s downing of a Russia jet at the Turkey-Syria border as a “stab in the back.”

“This event is beyond the normal framework of fighting against terrorism. Of course our military is doing heroic work against terrorism… But the loss today is a stab in the back, carried out by the accomplices of terrorists. I can’t describe it in any other way,” Putin said ahead of his meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan in Sochi on Tuesday.

“Neither our pilots nor our jet threatened the territory of Turkey. This is obvious. They are fighting terrorists in the northern areas around Latakia, where militants are located,” he said. 

Putin said the downing of the Russian plane will have “serious consequences” for Moscow-Ankara ties.

“I don’t know who was interested in what happened today, certainly not us. And instead of immediately getting in contact with us, as far as we know, the Turkish side immediately turned to their partners from NATO to discuss this incident, as if we shot down their plane and not they ours,” the Russian president said.

NATO extraordinary meeting

The ambassadors of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are due to hold an “extraordinary” meeting at the request of Turkey, following the country’s downing of a Russian warplane along the border with Syria.

“At the request of Turkey, the North Atlantic Council will hold an extraordinary meeting at (1600 GMT),” a western military alliance official, whose name was not mentioned in the reports, said on Tuesday.

The source added the gathering is meant for Ankara to inform NATO allies about the downing of a Russian airplane.

“NATO is monitoring the situation closely. We are in close contact with Turkish authorities,” the official said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the plane downed on Tuesday was a Russian Su-24, adding that it can prove the aircraft was over Syria during its entire flight. This is while the Turkish military said the plane was warned “ten times” before it was shot down for violating Turkish airspace.

“Presumably as a result of firing from the ground, a Su-24 plane of the Russian forces crashed in the Syrian Arab Republic,” Russian news agencies quoted the ministry as saying, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov describing the shooting down as “a very serious incident.”

Turkish officials say two warplanes approached the country’s border and were warned before one of them was shot down.

“A Russian Su-24 plane was downed under the rules of engagement because it violated Turkish airspace despite the warnings,” the Turkish presidency said.

Turkish media reports said militants in Syria have captured one of the pilots after both of them left the plane by parachute, but Syrian opposition sources said one pilot is killed and another missing.

Footage broadcast by Turkey’s Dogan news agency purportedly showed Russian helicopters flying over Syrian territory to search for the lost pilots.

Ankara has, meanwhile, summoned the Russian envoy to Turkey over the incident, ahead of a visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to the country.

The incident comes as Moscow is involved in an aerial military campaign against Takfiri terrorists in Syria, which started upon a request by the government in Damascus.

Relations between Russia and NATO have deteriorated over the past months as the military alliance and  its Western allies accuse the Kremlin of supporting pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine, an accusation that Kremlin categorically rejects.

The two mainly Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Lugansk – known collectively as the Donbass – have witnessed deadly clashes since April last year, when Kiev decided to silence pro-Russia protests there.

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